Tag Archives: Donald Trump

America: Pick A Torch

It’s impossible to read a newspaper without encountering a solemn “analysis” of what the Democrats absolutely must do in order to defeat Donald Trump in 2020.

Meanwhile, it becomes clearer every day that–stripped to its essence– the 2020 election will be about one overarching issue: what kind of country do we want to be?

A widely shared visual summed it up nicely with two photographs, side by side. One was a picture of Neo-Nazis with their tiki torches in Charlottesville; the second was a photo of the Statue of Liberty, focused on her torch. The caption asked “which torch will you choose?”

I rarely visit Twitter, but a friend directed me to a thread directly relevant to that question. 

The author was Tim Wise, a political consultant who was involved in two Louisiana campaigns against David Duke. Wise dismissed the handwringing, trolling and well-meaning advice being heaped on the Democrats.

If the Dems blow this election it will not be because they were “too far left on policy” or because they “weren’t left enough.” It will have little to do with policy at all. They are making a mistake caused by traditional consultant theory that does not apply here…

And by listening to influential pundits in liberal media who also don’t get the unique nature of Trumpism, relative to normal political movements & campaigns…this election is NOT going to be won by talking about all your “great plans” for health care, jobs, education, etc..

 And the reasons are several…Let me begin by saying that I have experience confronting the kind of phenomenon we see in Trumpism, and far more than most. Any of us who were involved in the fight against David Duke in LA in 90/91 know what this is and how it must be fought…

Wise then relayed his experience with campaigns against Duke. Political consultants warned against highlighting Duke’s racism; they said such a focus would play into Duke’s hands, and allow him to set the agenda.

Sound familiar?

In the Senate contest, the campaign followed mainstream advice not to “make a big deal” out of Duke’s racist appeals. To the extent they went negative, they talked about Duke paying his taxes late and avoiding service in Vietnam. They won, but very narrowly.

Wise regrets that approach because it normalized Duke. Attacking his bill paying habits or inadequate policy proposals “treated him like a normal candidate. But he was/is a NAZI…”

And none of his voters were voting 4 him bc of jobs, or tax policy or support for term limits, etc. And none were going to turn on him over late tax payments, Vietnam, etc. Indeed throwing that stuff out there & downplaying the elephant in the room (racism) seemed desperate..

It allowed people to say “well if he’s really this racist, white supremacist, why are they talking about all this other stuff?” It actually undermined our ability to paint him as the extremist he was/is. And as a result, the threat he posed was not clear enough to voters…

 And this didn’t just allow him to get votes he might not have gotten otherwise; it also depressed turnout among people who almost certainly disliked him but didn’t think he could win or would be all that big a deal if he did. In fact I recall convos with “liberals”…

Who said they weren’t going 2 vote bc after all Duke’s Dem opponent was just a shill for the oil and gas industry, and that was just as bad, blah blah fucking blah…because some lefties can’t tell the difference between corporatist assholes and actual literal Nazis…

 But we bore some responsibility for that because we got suckered into playing this conventional game and “not playing into his narrative.” Anyway, black and white liberal turnout is lower than it should have been and Duke gets 44% of vote…

In the Governor’s race we dispensed w/all that bullshit. We talked about Duke’s ongoing Nazism and the moral/practical evil of his racist appeals. We discussed how that moral evil would have real world consequences (driving tourists and business away, rightly so, from LA)..

Because it was wrong, and it was not who we wanted to be, and it was not who we were. We were better than that and needed to show the rest of the country that…

Now, did this flip any of Duke’s 1990 voters? Nah, not really. Indeed he got 65k MORE votes in the Governor’s race than the Senate race. But it was never about flipping them. We knew that would be almost impossible…

To flip Duke voters would require that they accept the fact that they had previously voted for a monster, and people are loath to do that. Our goal was not to flip them, but to DRIVE UP TURNOUT among the good folks, many of whom stayed home in 90…

And that is what happened. The concerted effort of the anti-Duke forces (not just us), challenging Duke’s “politics of prejudice,” and making the election about what kind of state we wanted to be, drove turnout through the roof…

When it was over, Duke had gotten 65k more votes than in 90, but his white share went to 55 (from 60) and overall to 39 (from 44) because the anti-Duke turnout swamped him…So what does this have to do with 2020 and Trump? Do I really need to explain it?…

First, trying to flip Trump voters is a waste of time. Any of them who regret their vote don’t need to be pandered to. They’ll do the right thing. Don’t focus on them. That said, very few will regret their vote. They cannot accept they voted for a monster or got suckered…

Duke retained 94% of the folks he got the first time out (and got new people too), as Trump likely will. So forget these people–or at least don’t wast time tailoring messages to them. And policy plans for affordable college don’t mean shit to them, nor health care…

Their support for Trump was never about policy. It was about the bigotry, the fact that he hates who they hate…

Wise is right. Much as we might wish it were otherwise, in 2020, America will choose a torch. Pray it’s the right one.

 

Can We Define “Great”?

One of the consequences of the fragmented media environment fostered by the Internet has been the development of alternate realities. Americans increasingly get our “news” from sources carefully chosen to confirm our pre-existing biases.

Nowhere is this more apparent than with the divisions over Donald Trump and his slogan  “Make America Great Again.”

It’s true, as many historians have pointed out, that the people with whom this slogan resonates tend to have a somewhat selective understanding of America’s history–one that omits the nation’s frequent deviation from its cherished principles. But inaccurate/incomplete history isn’t really the problem. The problem is with their definition of “greatness,” which tends to correspond with straight white male Christian dominance.

My own bias is for the vision of American greatness described by soccer star Megan Rapinoe in a recent article in the Guardian.

The US women’s soccer co-captain Megan Rapinoe has delivered an uncompromising message to Donald Trump, amid ongoing controversy over a possible visit to the White House by the World Cup champions.

Asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper what she would like to say to the American leader, Rapinoe said: “Your message is excluding people. You’re excluding me, you’re excluding people that look like me, you’re excluding people of colour, you’re excluding Americans that maybe support you.”

Rapinoe has been outspoken about LGBT rights as well as racial and gender equality. After the US won the World Cup for a record fourth time on Sunday, Rapinoe called for progress on equal pay for the male and female teams.

In a previous interview with CNN, Rapinoe had said that, should the U.S. team win, they would not go to the “fucking” White House. In the Guardian, she expressed regret for her language, but not for her sentiment.

“I would not go, and every teammate that I’ve talked to explicitly about it would not go,” she said.

“I don’t think anyone on the team has any interest in lending the platform that we’ve worked so hard to build, and the things that we fight for, and the way that we live our life … I don’t think that we want that to be co-opted or corrupted by this administration,” Rapinoe told Cooper.

She added that allowing the White House to “put us on display” didn’t “make sense for us at all”, adding: “There are so many other people that I would rather talk to and have meaningful conversations that could really affect change in Washington than going to the White House.”

The sports star added the US needed to have a “reckoning” with the implications of Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan. “You’re harking back to an era that was not great for everyone – it might have been great for a few people, and maybe America is great for a few people right now, but it’s not great for enough Americans in this world.”

Rapinoe’s definition of greatness–a definition with which I concur–is inclusion.

 A great society is one that values all its citizens, a society that rewards people based upon their behavior rather than their identity–a society that encourages and celebrates everyone’s participation and contribution.

Unfortunately, a  growing segment of the Internet is fostering a fear of “replacement” in insecure whites.That fear is based upon a definition of “greatness” that frantically opposes inclusion; “greatness” is a country where “people who look like me” are in control. As the linked article reports,

The far right has set off a vicious circle of disinformation by filling the information and communication gap on topics such as demographic change with emotive, speculative and hysterical content instead of facts.

The next election will be a choice between those who define American greatness as inclusion and civic equality and those who believe that “great” means an America that privileges straight white Christians.

 

 

What Does “Conservative” Mean Now?

This is a test. Who said this?

We lead the world because unique among nations, we draw our people, our strength, from every country and every corner of the world … Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we’re a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge; always leading the world to the next frontier. This quality is vital to our future as a nation. If we ever close the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost … And that’s why the Statue of Liberty lifts her lamp to welcome them to the golden door. It is bold men and women, yearning for freedom and opportunity, who leave their homelands and come to a new country to start their lives over. They believe in the American dream. And over and over, they make it come true for themselves, for their children, and for others. They give more than they receive. They labor and succeed, and often they are entrepreneurs. But their greatest contribution is more than economic, because they understand in a special way how glorious it is to be an American. They renew our pride and gratitude in the United States of America, the greatest, freest nation in the world. The last, best hope of man on Earth.

The answer, it may surprise you to learn, is Ronald Reagan. It was from his final speech as President.

I didn’t know that, but it was only one revelation among many in a paper delivered at a conference I attended on American Political History–a paper by Marcus Witcher that traced the “conservatism” of Donald Trump back to that of Pat Buchanan, and drew a strong distinction between what he dubbed Buchanan’s “paleoconservatism” and the more optimistic and libertarian approach of Reagan.

Trump, it appears, did not come out of nowhere, much as we might wish to believe that. There has long been a “Trumpian” faction in the GOP.

As I read the paper, which the author was kind enough to share, I was struck by the numerous parallels between Buchanan and Trump:  the culture war rhetoric; the need to “save” America from “barbarians”–feminists, homosexuals, immigrants and foreigners; opposition to free trade and NAFTA; opposition to immigration, both legal and illegal.

And of course, the appeal to bigotry.

Some of us remember the very different speeches made by Buchanan and Reagan at the 1992 GOP convention. Buchanan’s speech (which Molly Ivins memorably quipped “sounded better in the original German”) was all about culture war and protecting the “Judeo-Christian heritage” of America; Reagan’s was about “working together for a brighter tomorrow.” Reagan concluded his speech by saying that, whatever history ultimately concluded about him and his Presidency, “I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts.”

Not a Trumpian sentiment.

We can agree or disagree with Reagan’s policies, but there is no disputing the vast difference between his version of conservatism and the much darker version peddled by Pat Buchanan.

Buchanan eventually left the GOP for the Reform Party, and he defeated Donald Trump for that party’s nomination in 2000. (If I ever knew that, I’d forgotten it.)  Trump left the Reform party after that defeat, but as the paper pointed out, the 2016 messaging that won Trump  the GOP nomination is an eerie, virtually identical replica of Buchanan’s Reform Party message in 2000. Even the slogan “America First” was Buchanan’s. Politico later concluded that Buchanan’s legacy “was being Trump before Trump was Trump.”

For good or ill, the GOP is no longer the party of Ronald Reagan. (Nor is it the party of Barry Goldwater, or Nelson Rockerfeller, or Dwight Eisenhower, or ….) Reagan’s children have been vocal about the differences between the Gipper and Trump; they insist their father would be horrified by Trump and by what the current GOP has become.

Unfortunately, with its full-throated endorsement of Trump and Trumpism, the GOP is now   the party of Pat Buchanan–bitter, hateful and backward.

 

 

 

 

 

Twisted And Hateful

I often quote Ed Brayton, who follows crackpots and lunatics on the far fringes of the Religious Right and reports on their activities in his blog, Dispatches from the Culture Wars.  (I honestly don’t know how he manages to keep both his sanity and his sense of humor after daily encounters with these deeply disturbed individuals, but  he has–I’ve met him and he’s very smart, very astute–and very funny.)

Just a few days ago, Ed revisited Randall Terry.

Anyone familiar with the effort to deny women our reproductive rights has encountered news of Terry at some point. He founded Operation Rescue, the group that blocked clinic entrances around the country and engaged in other semi-terrorist “pro life” activities. (Give him props for honesty, though–he admits what so many of his fellow “pro life” warriors pretend is untrue– he’s as opposed to birth control as he is to abortion. Keep those women barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen like God intended!)

Not surprisingly, he’s also homophobic, and he’s recently fixated on Mayor Pete. As Ed writes,

Mayor Pete Buttigieg is polling well in Iowa and raising lots of money in the Democratic primary for president and now he’s going to be hounded by anti-choice crackpot Randall Terry. He’s headed to Iowa to confront Butegieg for being a babykiller who is locked in the sexual bondage of homosexuality. Or something.

Ed shared Randall Terry’s press release:

We are going to Iowa to confront the “new political sensation;” Pete Buttigieg.

We’ve sent a press release to every daily newspaper in the state of Iowa…telling them we are coming to welcome “Mayor Pete” AT ALL FIVE of his campaign stops next week!

As I read and read about this 37 year old, poor lost soul, I am filled with grief and rage.

I grieve for Pete Buttigieg – for his endangered soul, his sexual bondage – and I am enraged by what he is really doing.

He is a baby-killing politician, who is recruiting young people into homosexual bondage by his example, and trying to normalize what is an intrinsically evil behavior.

This rant reminds me of the greeting cards I got one Easter when I was Executive Director of Indiana’s ACLU; there were a couple dozen of them, all with a praying Virgin Mary on the front. The inside of the cards was blank, and on each one, someone had written  “We are praying for your sinful soul.”

Unfortunately, I still have my old, sinful soul. And from all accounts, Mayor Pete is still gay and still running for President.

People like Terry would be funny if they weren’t dangerous. Most simply pose a threat to religious liberty and the Constitution, which is troubling enough, but others are violent. All of them are locked in to an alternate reality.

And speaking of alternate realities, Ed also had a post about crazy lady Michelle Bachmann.

Michele Bachmann, the “pastor to the United Nations,” told crackpot Jan Markell that she had never seen a more Biblical president than Donald Trump and that she prays that God will help destroy the “deep state” so that Trump can “expose the hidden deeds of darkness” done by that amorphous, universal bunch of baddies.

If only the “deep state” of rightwing fever dreams really did exist and could do something about Trump…

How detached from reality do you have to be to consider Donald Trump “Biblical”?

 

The Inmates Running The Asylum

There really is no end to this. Every day, we are reminded that everyone in or around the White House is either a White Supremicist (like creepy Steven Miller) or a nutcase invested in conspiracy theories. Of course, the two categories are not mutually exclusive.

Case in point.

The wife of White House communications director Bill Shine went on an anti-vaccine tirade while spreading conspiracy theories about an outbreak of measles in the Pacific north-west.

In a series of tweets, Darla Shine lashed out against a CNN segment detailing the outbreak, which has seen more than 50 unvaccinated people contract measles in Washington state and Oregon.

“Here we go LOL #measlesoutbreak on #CNN #Fake #Hysteria,” Darla Shine tweeted. “The entire Baby Boom population alive today had the #Measles as kids. Bring back our #ChildhoodDiseases they keep you healthy & fight cancer.”

“I had the #Measles #Mumps #ChickenPox as a child and so did every kid I knew,” she went on to claim, adding: “Sadly my kids had #MMR so they will never have the life long natural immunity I have. Come breathe on me!”

Shine is a former TV producer. She’s married to Bill Shine, the former executive at–where else?– Fox News who is now Donald Trump’s deputy chief of staff for communications.

When she was criticized for her comments, Shine not only accused “the Left” of attempting to smear her, but suggested that measles can cure cancer (mischaracterizing a complex case from 2014 that did not reach that conclusion.)

This isn’t her first visit to whack-a-doodle land. She has “debunked” use of sunscreens and spread several conspiracy theories warning of the “dangers” of vaccines.

Other unearthed tweets found Darla Shine making profane remarks about race, questioning why white people were considered racist for using “the n’word” given its use by black people and defending the Confederate flag.

She has repeatedly struck a dismissive tone when discussing allegations of sexual assault, be it in the military or at Fox News.

Granted, this woman is the spouse of a White House staffer–not the staffer herself. (Her husband departed Fox News after he was found to have suppressed allegations of sexual impropriety against Roger Ailes and Bill O”Reilly.) Nevertheless, her looney-tunes tweets reflect upon the administration and are highly inappropriate.

Of course, so are Trump’s.

In fact, I can’t think of anyone who is still in the White House, from the President on down, who isn’t an embarrassment to humanity.